She’s been acknowledged by Hilary Clinton’s Vital Voices Foundation, the German Parliament and French university Sciences Po. And now, in one of her latest feats, Soraya Bahgat has become the first Arab woman to be granted a Hän Honour. In December, the Cairo-based Egyptian-Finnish received the Finnish accolade granted to people and organisations working towards equality around the world for her passionate work advocating women’s rights and tolerance.
Bahgat made headlines while founding Tahrir Bodyguard, a group of non-political, not-partisan volunteers formed to stop the violent sexual mob assaults on women in Tahrir Square during Egypt’s 2011 revolution. The multi-faceted activist’s daily commute to work sparked inspiration to get the initiative rolling. And it soon became an internationally acclaimed drive covered by international outlets like CNN and The Guardian. As well as patrolling the streets, pulling women out, warding off perpetrators and monitoring potential attackers, the volunteers offered free self-defense training courses for women.
No woman should be subjected to fear while practicing their rights to express. To prevent assault on women on Tahrir Square, I decided to become the bodyguard of all women and I founded Tahrir bodyguard. @SorayaBahgat at #AfricaYouthConf2018 pic.twitter.com/khsu1WAadJ— Emad Karim (@emadkarim) October 23, 2018
“It was one of the most exciting journeys of my life, and it taught me that, if you follow an idea and really believe in it, people will follow,” Bahgat, who has worked as an HR executive, told Cairo Scene.
Bahgat, who was appointed a board member of the Gezira Youth Centre and was chosen as a mentee of the Fortune Magazine/US State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership, is also a member of the Strategic Advisory Group for the Girl Generation. It’s a pan-African platform to eradicate female genital mutilation in one generation. The motivational woman, who prefers to keep a low profile, also collaborates with different entities, including the United Nations and Ahl Masr, for charitable purposes.
About Hän Honours
By presenting Hän Honours Finland wants to highlight the important work that is being done every day to globally promote equality-related values in society. Some other Hän Honours recipients include Cenpec, a Brazilian NGO that fights against social inequalities through education and the Australian Girls Leadership Network, which aims to empower girls to dream, believe, achieve and reach their leadership potential. Laboratoria, which provides women in Latin America with a quality education with skills needed to build a successful career in the technology sector, is a Peruvian organisation that also got a nod for working towards a bias-free world.
What Is Hän?
Hän is the third-person singular pronoun, meaning “she” and “he” all at once, it is neutral in terms of gender and social status. The inclusive Finnish pronoun stands for equal opportunity and is a symbol for a better world where people are not defined by their background, gender or appearance.